A favorite activity of both visitors and residents is a leisurely drive through the countryside, along roads that wind through farmsteads, natural areas, and small towns. Whether the lacey green of early spring, the greens and golds of summer, the riot of fall colors, or the still white of winter, the colors and hues of the landscape are definitely worth the trip.
You can enjoy the small family farms, the traditional barns (fast disappearing), and the dairy herds that graze up to the forest’s edge. You can drive along a river’s edge, and see sand hill cranes in a courting dance, or bald eagles filling the trees like regal ornaments. You can stop in a small town for a bite to eat, shop for a hand-crafted art object, or fill a bag to the brim with local produce.
Wisconsin created the Rustic Road program, a “great step backwards,” to preserve what is left of the state’s scenic, lightly-traveled country roads. Two are in the area.
Rustic Road 55
Tunnelville Road is located in Vernon County beginning at State Highway 131 and traveling 2.8 miles to County Road SS. In the spring, Tunnelville Road traverses fields of trilliums, while summer lines the steep road edges with ferns and wildflowers. The fall foliage is always colorful and in winter the traveler will appreciate the views of the hillsides coated with snow and the wealth of trees along the road.
Rustic Road 56
Also in Vernon County, this 8.6-mile route includes portions of Dutch Hollow Road, Sand Hill Road, Hoff Valley Road, and Lower Ridge Road. It begins at the intersection of Dutch Hollow Road and State Highway 131, and extends to the intersection of Lower Ridge Road and Highway 131. The route offers many scenic views, including Wildcat Mountain State Park, Amish farms, log cabins, a round barn, and examples of contour farming.
Great River Road, a National Scenic Byway
The granddaddy of all scenic routes, the Great River Road, follows the Mighty Mississippi River. From Stoddard, Genoa, Victory and De Soto in Vernon County to Ferryville, and Prairie du Chien in Crawford County, these quaint river towns are great places to stop. You can drive beside the soaring bluffs or travel up to scenic overlooks, where you can watch barges and pleasure boats working their way up and down river. Take some time to observe river traffic at Lock and Dam #8 or #9. Enjoy this marvelous mix of scenery, nature, and history.
Lower Wisconsin River Road, a Wisconsin Scenic Byway
In 2009, the 100-mile Lower Wisconsin River Road was designated a state scenic byway, from the “Empire Prairie to the Mighty Mississippi.” State Highway 60, beginning in the town of Arlington in Columbia County and continuing to the intersection with the Great River Road in Crawford County near the town of Bridgeport, offers some of the best scenery in Southwestern Wisconsin. Sprawling agricultural lands, mysterious bottomlands, towering bluffs and the magnificent Wisconsin River are all visible from the highway.
For more suggested road tours, click on Trip Itineraries.